Friday, April 29, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- taking a razor to the argument from silence

Countering a false argument from silence can be done a couple of ways.  One is from existing data by means of Occam’s Razor.
The existing data shows an ethnic group named Israel living in the Holy Land by 1207 BCE, and that Merneptah’s Egypt considered it comparable to the other great people of that region, the K’naani.  We don’t know how long they had lived there but we have analogies from two other ethnic groups.  (Modern radiocarbon dating puts this about 20 years earlier but that’s “in the noise”, as we used to say at work, compared to something I’ll talk about later.)
Possibly the best known example is the Celts.  Herodotus, in the 400s BCE, refers to them as Keltoi living in what is now Austria.
Archaeology identifies the Celtic people of that time as the La Tene culture, remains of which were discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857.  The Celts go farther back, however, to the Hallstatt culture of the 800s BCE, first described by Johann Ramsauer in 1846.  The Hallstatt culture already occupied Austria, and one of the oldest items of that culture turned up there in 1851.
So the initial possibility for the age of the Israelite ethnic group in 1230 or 1210 BCE could be 100 years, or it could be 400 by analogy with the Celts.   Close enough for government work.
The other example is the Greeks.  Their own tradition claims that they developed from the Ionians, Dorians, Aeolians and Achaeans.  Again, this is in Herodotus, from the 400s BCE, and we know he isn’t reliable.  Modern archaeology places the Dorians in Crete as well as in the Peloponnese, and as you know the Mykenaeans referred to the Ionians as being in Crete in the 1400s BCE, a millennium before Herodotus.
So history knows that the Hellenes or their constituents go back at least 400 years before Herodotus, to the time when the Ionians migrated to western Anatolia.  Archaeology takes them back to 1190 BCE when the Sea Peoples or at least the Cretan contingent destroyed Wilusa/Troy VIIb.  The Mykenaean description from the homeland of Agamemnon places the Ionians possibly in 1400 BCE, of course with a history of some decades or centuries before that.  And modern language research pushes their origins to the 2000s in Anatolia, under an unknown name, when they and the Hurrians and Hittites all shared some form of the “war of the gods” story with the Akkadians of Mesopotamia. 
A 400 year past for the Israelites therefore places them chronologically close to the expulsion of the Hyksos from Avaris and the explosion of Thera.  A thousand year past places their origins close to the destruction of Ebla, and the destruction of the cities of the plain.
But a past extending long before 1207 BCE is reasonable even if no recognizable physical remains exist.
The question then becomes what would be recognizable physical remains of Israelites at that point in time.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment